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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korean border guards arrested an American man who they believe was attempting to swim across a river into rival North Korea, a South Korean defense official said Wednesday. The man was apprehended Tuesday night while lying on a bank of the Han River, which is in a restricted military area near the border, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to office policy. The man was in his late 20s or early 30s, Yonhap news agency said, and had told investigators that he tried to go to North Korea to meet leader Kim Jong Un.
Americans are occasionally arrested after entering North Korea illegally from China but a U.S. citizen trying to get in from South Korea is unusual. In the 1960s, several U.S. soldiers walked into the North while on a patrol near the mine-strewn Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. Those army deserters later appeared in North Korean propaganda films and taught English. In 1996, American Evan C. Hunziker entered the North by swimming across the Yalu River that marks the Chinese border. Hunziker, 26 at the time, was eventually freed after negotiations. He killed himself about one month after his release.